In light of the killing of Freddie Gray and charges brought against six Baltimore police, the president of the Baltimore police union released a statement that police are now more fearful about being jailed “for doing their jobs properly” than getting shot. Most police officers in Baltimore and elsewhere never get charged for killing any unarmed individuals and those that do rarely ever get convicted. So there is little to no reason for a police officer to fear being arrested.
Police probably have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being charged for killing an unarmed black man. And if they fear that they cannot do their job as police without killing unarmed blacks, then maybe they should not be police officers. Doing their job properly should not mean a young man dies of a broken spine while riding in the custody of police. Quite frankly, I am tired of police in Baltimore and elsewhere turning the tables upside down when it comes to killings involving unarmed blacks. Fear is the first response they utter out of their mouths when faced with the possibility of a charge being brought against them. It is the element of fear of being killed that causes many cases to never be charged by prosecutors.
If Baltimore police fear being jailed, blacks fear being killed by police. That’s what many blacks feel when confronted by police under what many consider to be non-confrontational circumstances. Michael Brown ran when initially confronted by police officer Darren Wilson for jaywalking. And we know that didn’t end well for 19 year old Michael Brown. And Freddie Gray ran when he had done nothing wrong. He ended up with a broken spine and died of his complications. Eric Garner dared to stand tall and tell the officers that he had done nothing wrong. Meanwhile, as they held him in a chokehold, and he cried out, “I can’t breathe”, we all watched as he took his last breath at the hands of a police officer. And Walter Scott ran when he was stopped for a busted tail light on his newly purchased used vehicle. As he ran away for reasons unknown, he was shot 8 times in the back by a North Charleston police officer. And 12 year old Tamir Rice was killed by a Cleveland police officer while playing on a playground with a toy gun. If anyone wants to understand fear of being arrested or jailed, they should talk to an unarmed black person. That is the real story.
But if the police truly fear being jailed more so than of being shot, as the Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan alleges, that fear means that they cannot correctly do their job. And for those police officers who cannot properly under the law, do their job, they should resign. Imagine if a pilot is afraid of flying or a firefighter fears being charged with arson in a fire, one cannot effectively do their job. Fear is a subjective feeling. But when the fear interferes with one’s ability to do their job, it’s time to get a new job. And if Baltimore police and those elsewhere fear that they cannot do their job without killing unarmed blacks and others, they need to find another vocation. While I understand that being a police officer is a difficult job, I seriously question if police are fearful of being jailed.
What the police need are extensive ongoing racial sensitivity training in dealing with minority communities, community policing where police come from the community they serve, body cameras, re-training on the law and firing of those who cannot properly do their jobs. And many Baltimore police need to take a long look in the mirror and rid themselves of any racially motivated actions towards the minority communities they serve. Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen anytime in the near future. For now, the Baltimore police union and its officers should stop whining and do their work without killing unarmed black individuals—just like they do when arresting whites in white neighborhoods.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor. She appears on Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, BET, C-Span, PBS, NPR, CCTV- America, Fox 5 (WTTG) and TV One among others, speaking on legal news and issues.